AYP, an Unreliable Measure of School Performance
Written by Jeff Kwitowski, K12 VP of Public Affairs”

By Jeff Kwitowski, K12 VP of Public Affairs

Derek Thompson at the Atlantic chimed in on the Businessweek article featuring K12.  He got tripped up on a few things: 

First, K12 is not a “for-profit virtual middle school.”  It is a provider of online curriculum, technology and school services.  The company partners with schools, school districts and other education institutions to provide online learning programs and services.  All the schools using K12 are nonprofit and governed by an independent, nonprofit governing board.  And yes, K12 uses teachers:  highly qualified, state-certified general ed teachers, special ed teachers, subject experts, counselors, advisors, paraprofessionals, etc.  But you wouldn’t know it reading the BusinessWeek article.  It’s one of many errors of omission in the article.  You can read my response to the article here.

Derek highlights the section on academic performance which included quotes from Gary Miron at Western Michigan U.  However, Miron uses only the federal Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) standard to render judgment on K12’s academic performance.  That’s odd since Miron’s own report – which, by the way, contained numerous errors on K12 and its partner schools – called AYP a “crude indicator of whether or not schools are meeting state standards.”  I agree.  So does Arne Duncan, who warns that over 80% of U.S. schools are at risk of missing AYP if No Child Left Behind is not reformed. 

AYP is not a reliable measure of school performance.  This is especially true for new school models, including statewide online schools and blended learning programs, which didn’t exist a decade ago when AYP was developed.  AYP was designed primarily for traditional, classroom-based schools (with a largely fixed student population), not for online schools that enroll new students every year across an entire state, including many transfer students who come in academically behind after years of failure in their local school.   

There is an emerging consensus to scrap AYP and replace it with a better system that measures academic progress and growth.  K12 has been measuring student academic growth on behalf of its partner schools, and the results are strong with academic gains above the national average.  It’s a shame Businessweek chose not to include that information.